Role of Media: Shaping ethnic relations in BC

The Ka Na Ta Conversations will be held this Wednesday, January 29th. It is sponsored by Vancouver Island University and the Assembly of First Nations. “Seeing Each Other: The role of media and indigenous voices in reshaping relationships”  is a chance for the public to hear First Nations leaders, educators and reporters talk about the role of the Canadian media on public perception.

Media and ethnic segregation:
Both the media and government serve as role models for their citizens.  Unfortunately, people are being divided along ethnic lines by the government.

The BC Premier’s office has been holding ‘ethnic’ press conferences over the past year. Many English language journalists have been voicing increased frustration at not being able to attend those meetings. Finally, last week after word had leaked out of yet another exclusive ‘ethnic’ press conference to be held at the Premier’s office in Vancouver on January 23, 2014 some reporters used twitter to speak out:

  • So..Premier Christy Clark is holding a private round table with members of local Chinese media at 2pm
  • No release went out, PO [Premier’s Office] called individual outlets to let them know.
  • English media not welcome at Premier’s roundtable today. Sam Oliphant tells me it’s “Private” when asked for future advisories

There was an exchange between reporters about why it’s so important to include all media:

  • So what’s the to-do about [Premier Clark] having an “ethnic media” newser? This has been going on since the 90s.
  • BC needs to get past this view. I’m covering BC politics, not English-language BC politics!
  • Vancouver has changed
  • Many of these ethnic papers are larger than the local English media.

Just hours before the news conference, several uninvited English media reporters decided to attend. Reporters from CKNW, CBC, CTV, Global TV, Vancouver Courier, The Province, and Fairchild media all gathered inside the main waiting room. After waiting an hour, the reporters were allowed in.

Ethnic Media conference
Ethnic Media conference

The Premier’s spokesperson singled out a reporter and asked ‘why do you have a bee in your bonnet regarding round tables with ethnic media?’ The reporter responded that all journalists should be included. The spokesperson went on to say that only the Chinese and Korean media were invited because they were marking the lunar new year which begins January 31st. This is the Year of the Wooden Horse.

The Chinese and Korean reporters were given the opportunity to ask questions first.  The press conference covered many topics of concern to all British Columbians such as the economic outlook for 2014, Liquefied Natural Gas projects, and history education in public schools.

Red Flags and Brown Envelopes
Why are Chinese and Korean reporters given preferential treatment? We know that both China and Korea have massive land holdings and investment projects here in BC. At the end of 2013, BC’s softwood lumber exports to China reached a new record of $1.17 billion and the total commodity exports to China from BC was $6 billion. Also, Korea has major coal mine investments here on Vancouver Island.

By excluding other ethnic reporters was Premier Clark planning a tailored message supplemented with ‘special envelopes’ for the Chinese and Korean reporters?

Who is standing in the way?
Currently, we have First Nations accused of ‘standing in the way’ of big projects. By having segregated news conferences the government can reinforce the message that First Nations are a problem.  How can the media play a role in stopping racism and segregation? People need to learn history to avoid repeating mistakes.

media tweet re First Nations and resource development

Changing demographics:
Here we are at 2014 and in less than 50 years the province of British Columbia has gone from being largely British to largely Asian.  According to 2011 statistics, 58% of Metro Vancouver residents speak only English at home, down from 65.2% in 2001. Punjabi, Mandarin, Cantonese and Tagalog account for the majority of languages spoken.

The public is invited to attend the Ka Na Ta Conversations on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at Vancouver Island Conference Centre, 101 Gordon Street, downtown Nanaimo.  If you have questions, email Kanata2014@viu.ca.